How to Apply for a China Visa — a Step-by-Step Guide

China visa

Planning to visit China, but don’t know how to apply for a China visa? Here is the information about how to apply for a tourist visa , a business visa, a work visa, and how to extend your visa.

3 Things to Do Beforehand

1. Please confirm whether or not you need to apply for a visa. Be sure to review the China visa-free policy

If your country participates in the Visa Waiver Program, you do not need to apply for a visa if you are traveling for business or pleasure.

2. Determine your visa type by reading about the types of China visa. Each visa type explains the qualifications and application items. Choose the visa type that applies to your situation.

3. Ensure the validity of your passport. To get a China visa, you must have a valid passport with at least 6 months of remaining validity. So if your passport is due to expire in less than 6 months, you will need to renew it before you apply for your visa. You must have blank visa pages in your passport as well.

If you do need to apply for a visa, please follow the steps below. We have provided you with detailed information about how to apply for tourist, business, and work visas.

How to Apply for a Tourist Visa (L Visa)

China Visa

If you are planning to go on a vacation or visit family in China, you will need to obtain a Tourist Visa. If you plan to travel with a tourist group organized by a travel agency, a group visa is acceptable.

A Tourist Visa is the most common type of visa and likely to be the one that travelers opt for. You can apply for it without any help from a business, school, or government agency.

This visa is usually issued for single-entry, double-entry, or multiple-entry. The duration of each stay is normally 30–60 days.

3 Steps to Get a Tourist Visa

Step 1: Gather your documents.

You need to prepare these documents:

  • (1) Passport (original, not a copy) with at least two blank visa pages
  • (2) A complete visa application form (The visa application form can be downloaded from the Chinese embassy website or from our website. You complete it by computer, print and sign it.)
  • (3) A recent passport-type photograph (head and shoulders only, front view, with a white background, approximately 35mm x 45mm)
  • (4) Air ticket booking record (round trip) and proof of a hotel reservation.

If you are planning to stay with friends or family who live in China and can’t provide the hotel confirmation, you need to provide an invitation letter. The letter should include the following:

  • (1) Personal information of the applicant: name, gender, and date of birth
  • (2) Details of the visit: dates, purpose, places to visit, and places of accommodation
  • (3) Details of the inviting party: name(s), telephone number, address, and relationship to the applicant

If your travel is being organized by a tour group in China, an official signed and stamped invitation letter for tourists issued by a duly authorized tourism unit in China can be used in place of the hotel reservation.

Step 2: Submit the application.

You may submit the application to the Visa Office at Chinese embassies or consulates, or China Visa Application Service Centers if they are operating in your country.

Mailed applications are not accepted by most overseas Chinese embassies or consulates. No appointment is required by most embassies or consulates.

If you cannot go in person, you can entrust someone else to drop off the visa application, or a travel/visa agency to help handle your visa application. 

For applicants holding a U.S. passport, we recommend VisaHQ, who provides a fast, efficient service at a very competitive price.

Step 3: Pay the visa application fee and collect your visa.

The fees vary enormously depending on your nationality and number of entries. For your reference, we give you a pricing table at the end of the page.

Apply for special permits, if necessary. If you are planning on traveling to the Tibet Autonomous Region, you will need to get a special permit from a Chinese travel agency.


How to Apply for a Business Visa (M Visa)

If you’re going to take a business trip to China, you will need a Business Visa. This visa is usually issued for single-entry, double-entry, or multiple-entry. The duration of each stay is normally 30–60 days.

Apart from the general documents, such as your passport, a visa application form, and a recent passport-type photograph, this visa requires that you have an invitation letter provided by a Chinese organization or company.

How to Get the Required Chinese Invitation Letter

Your invitation letter can come from one of two sources:

  • A Chinese government agency
  • A company or organization (such as a trade fair/show) in mainland China

If your invitation letter is from a Chinese company or institution, it must be printed on their official letterhead, showing their company address, phone number, and fax number. The letter must also bear the official seal of the company or institution.

Your invitation letter must include the following eight elements:

  • Your personal information: name, date of birth, passport number, full name of the company that you work for, and your job title;
  • Major purpose of your visit;
  • City you will visit;
  • Date of arrival and departure;
  • Explanation of the relationship between the Chinese company and your company;
  • Explanation of who will bear the cost of your accommodation in China;
  • Personal information about the person inviting you: full name, job title, detailed company address, fax number, and phone number;
  • Official seal of the company or organization and signature of the inviter.

The F visa (visa for exchanges and visits) is similar to the M visa in its document requirements and application process.

Apply for a work visaYou need to apply for a work visa if you want to work in China.

How to Apply for a Work Visa (Z Visa)

If you want to work in China and get paid, you will need a Work Visa. Here are the most important things you need to know:

  • Ask your employer to send you the proper documents, such as a Visa Notification Letter and Employee Permit.
  • This visa is only valid for 30 days from the date of arrival. So you need to apply for a Temporary Residence Permit in a Public Security Bureau (police station) when you arrive.
  • Generally, the age limit for male applicants is 18–60 and it’s 18–55 for female applicants.

When to Apply for a Visa

It is important to get your visa early, but not too early because it is only valid for 90/180 days for single/double-entry visas from the issue date.

The regular service processing time is 4 days, and the rushed service takes1 day. The latter is only available in extreme emergencies pending a consular officer’s approval.

It is usually recommended that you apply for the visa one or two months before the intended travel. 

Visa Fee

1. Regular Service

Number of Entry U.S. Citizen Canada Citizen Non-U.S. Citizen*
Single Entry USD 140 CAD 100 USD 30
Double Entries USD 140 CAD 100 USD 45
Multiple Entries for 6 Months USD 140 CAD 100 USD 60
Multiple Entries for 12 Months or more USD 140 CAD 100 USD 90

*Visa fee for certain non-U.S. citizens may vary from the list above based on reciprocal agreements. Please check with a Visa Office for special fees.

2. Express service: an additional fee of $20 per visa

3. Rush service: an additional fee of $30 per visa

How to Extend Your China Visa

Foreigners who want to stay in China beyond the duration of their visa need to apply for an extension.

The visa extension application should be a form submitted to the Local Public Security Bureau 7 days before the expiration date of the visa. Once your visa is extended, the new dates start from the day you receive your new visa – NOT from the day your old visa was going to end.

Visitors traveling with a group on a group visa and who want to stay longer than the group should apply for an individual visa.

Visitors who want their visa to be extended should provide the following evidential materials

  • Valid passport and your current visa
  • a passport sized photo
  • A completed application form for visa extension
  • Reason for the extension

The length of the extension depends on the type of visa and multiple entry visas cannot be extended.

You are advised not to overstay the duration of your visa or fail to apply for an extension before your visa expires as you risk being heavily fined and have your travel plans disrupted. Please contact your travel advisor for assistance in visa extensions.

Tailor-Making a China Tour

Visit the Great Wall of China

China Highlights is your China tour tailor-making expert. See the recommended tours below for inspiration:

As an alterative to customizing the recommended tours linked above to meet your individual requirements, we can help you tailor-make a tour according to your interests and requirementes.

Or check out our ideas and suggestion on How to Plan Your China Tour in 2018.